Изображения страниц

but lately discovered. The entrance to this fairy scene is rather terrific, the descent for about thirty paces being very abrupt, and the passage for nearly a quarter of a mile so low, that in many parts it is impossible to proceed in an erect posture.

“ Il faut passer par les peines pour arriver aux plaines," said the Doctor, as the splendour of that cavern denominated the Music Chamber, burst upon their astonished sight. The regularity of the stalactites assume at one end of the cavern the appearance of organ pipes, while at the other they are of so delicate and regular a form, that they resemble the finest specimens of Gothic architecture, presenting innumerable light and elegant colonnades. Proceeding further onwards, our travellers arrived at the Grotto of Paradise. This cavern is about twenty feet long, and twelve feet high, terminating at the top in a pointed Gothic arch, from which are suspended innumerable stalactites; candles judiciously placed give it the appearance of being lighted with magnificent chandeliers. The sides are brilliantly incrusted with spar, and this enchanting spot, in which is realized the splendour of fairy land, is paved with black and white spar.

As they continued to explore the beauties of this enchant-. ing place, no sound met their ear, save that produced by the soft droppings of the water, which, suspended at the end of each stalactite sometimes fell softly on the crystal floor, and formed the foundation of staglamites. The Grotto of Calypso, next claimed their attention, and Calypso herself, could not have required a more brilliant abode, than that which this cavern, 2000 feet from the entrance presented.

The guide having desired them to mount a recess, about six feet from the floor, they had a fine view of the different stalactites, which were here extremely long, and varied in colour. Gentle echoes, too, reverberated from side to side, and Dr. Walker and his pupil, indulging those calm and sweet sensations which the nature of the scene they had quitted was calculated to inspire, returned in silence to the bright and glowing regions of the day.




HAVING viewed the principal of the subterraneous wonders of the Peak, they quitted this dreary part of the country, and entering the rich and luxuriant plains of Cheshire, they at length arrived at Northwich, where they resolved to stay some few days in order to view the salt mines of that place.

Having seated themselves in a basket, they were let down a considerable distance, and upon arriving at the bottom, a crystal cathedral appeared illumined by many lights, and glittering on all sides with the splendour of a fairy palace. Some of the salt pits are worked in regular aisles or streets, supported by pillars six and eight yards square. The strata passed through in going down to the upper bed of rock, are nearly horizontal in position, and very uniform in their structure, consisting, in every instance, of beds of clay and marle ; and these, with the exception of a few of the most superficial, appearing in similar progression in each mine, and there are eleven or twelve. The clays or argillaceous stone of which these beds are composed, are indurated or hardened in different degrees, tinged with various shades of red, blue, brown, &c. and usually .contain a sulphate of lime; they are known to the miners by the names of metals. Although the generality of these clays are sufficiently indurated to repel water, yet there are instances where it is not so, and it is then called shaggy metal, and the fresh water which makes its way through the pores, has the expressive appellation of roaring Meg. In one mine in which the shaggy metal was found at twenty-six yards depth, it discharged three hundred and sixty gallons in one minute. This mine was discovered by some coal-miners, searching for coal, in the year 1670. The first stratum of salt appeared at different spots, from twenty-eight to forty-eight feet beneath the surface of the earth, and is from fifteen to twenty-one yards in thickness. That of the lower bed has never been ascertained in any one of the mines in this district. The workings in the lower stratum are usually begun at the depth of from twenty to twenty-five yards, and are

[ocr errors]

carried down for five or six yards. In one of the mines a shaft has been sunk to a level of fourteen yards still lower, without passing through the body of rock salt. This bed, therefore, has been ascertained to be forty yards in thickness, and as yet there is no end to it. In the mines of Poland and Hungary, the salt seldom exceeds one or two inches in thickness, being then divided by layers of clay, a few inches thick. Thus we see how superior the veins of salt are in Northwich to those in the celebrated mines of Cracow ; " and its superiority in other respects,” said Dr. Walker, “ cannot be better proved, than by the absolute fact, that many thousand tons of Cheshire salt are'annually exported to the Baltic, for the consumption of Russia and Prussia, which are so much nearer Cracow. The salt mines of Northwich have indeed been proved by Dr. Watson, in his Chemical Essays, to be superior to those in Poland.”

This salt is not very unlike brown sugar candy, and it is so hard, that gunpowder is employed to blast it. The pick axes used to divide the larger portions which are thus separated, are made of steel.

On the horizontal surface of Northwich rock salt, a cu. rious arrangement of the mineral may be observed in various parts. On this surface may be traced a great variety of figures, more or less distinctly marked, and differing consi. derably in the forms which they assume, some appearing nearly circular, others perfectly pentagonal, and others again having an irregular polyhedral figure. The lines which form the boundary of these figures are composed of extremely pure white salt, forming a division between the coarse red rock which is exterior to the figure, and equally coarse rock which is within it.

These figures differ much in size, some being less than a yard in diameter, others as much as three or four yards ; and they are frequently observed one within the other.

When they quitted the salt mine, they directed their steps towards the salt springs in the neighbourhood, where they were gratified with viewing the whole process of extracting the salt from the water. These briny springs lie at about 20 or 30 yards from the surface of the earth, and are raised by a steam engine, and conveyed through very long troughs to the brine pits. The process of extracting the salt is accom. plished by heating the liquid in iron pans, of about twenty

[ocr errors]

or thirty feet square, and about fourteen inches deep. When it boils, a light scum rises to the top, which is taken off, and the liquor reduced to a lower degree of heat : the steam arising is made to evaporate as quickly as possible, and the salt collecting into crystals, forms a crust on the surface, and afterwards sinks to the bottom of the pans, from whence it is removed once or twice in every four and twenty hours.

That salt which is procured from the sea by evaporation, is called bay salt, and is of a brown colour; when refined by boiling in large flat cauldrons, which not only takes away its acrimony, but is found to increase its quantity : it is of a pure white. The word salt was originally confined to common salt, a substance which has been known and in use from time immemorial ; but the term is now applied to all the compounds which the acias form with alkalies, earths, and metallic oxydes. The number of salts is now probably somewhere about two thousand. Chemists have reed to denominate the salts from the acids they contain.

SECTION X. From Northwich Dr. Walker and his pupil proceeded by Middlewich to Chester, where they visited the great church, said to have been founded by king Edgar, who conquered all this part of Britain, and was rowed up the Dee, by seven or eight kings, himself steering the helm.

“ He was as bad as Sesostris, Sir," said Edward, as the man who attended them concluded his narration.

“ Yes," replied the Doctor, “ and that which he fancied would hand his name down to posterity covered with glory, has, on the contrary, excited only feelings of contempt and pity for the weakness it betrayed.”

• The church,” resumed their guide, 6 was finished by Hugh Lopus, the famous earl of Chester, nephew to Wil. liam the Conqueror. His body was discovered, in the year 1525, in the old chapter house, belonging to Flint castle. The bones were all firm and in their proper place; and what is more remarkable, the string which tied the ankles was whole and entire."


“ Chester was, if I recollect right, Sir, a colony of the Romans ?” said Edward, in the tone of enquiry.

“ Yes," replied his tutor, “ the twentieth legion, called Victrix, was here quartered, as is evident from the inscription of several coins and medals that have been found in the neighbourhood of this city.” The long galleries, or rors, as they are called, which form a line of piazza along the street, did not, in the opinion of our travellers, increase the beauty of the city, although they were pointed out by the inhabitants as very ornamental, and forming an agreeable shelter for foot passengers in rainy weather. The streets are, however, broad and good, and cross each other in the middle of the city, as they do at Chichester. At Bangor, Dr. Walker endeavoured in vain to obtain some information respecting a monastery that once stood in this neighbourhood, in which 2400 monks performed divine service, night and day. But no trace was to be found of this once celebrated establishment.

From Bangor they turned a little out of their way to see an old British post, at Gresford, which is situated on a lofty eminence, commanding an extensive view over a beautiful little valley, which terminates in the fine plains of Cheshire. Continuing their journey to Holywell, they paid their re. spects to St. Winifred's well.

This spring boils with vast impetuosity out of a rock, and is formed into a polygonal well, covered by a rich arch, supported by pillars. The roof is most exquisitely carved in stone ; immediately over the fountain is the legend of the saint, on a pendant projection, with the arms of England at the bottom." In the 7th century, a virgin of extraordinary beauty, of the name of Winifred, being placed under the care of her uncle, Bruno, a monk, who had erected a church near ihe spot, a neighbouring prince became enamoured of her charms. The lady, however, rejecting his offer of love with scorn, he drew out his sword, and cut off her head, in a fit of rage and disappointment. But he instantly received the reward due to his enormous crime, for he dropped down dead, and the earth opened and swallowed him up, while the revered head of the beautiful Winifred took its way down the hill, nor did it stop till it reached the church. The valley, in which this church stood was, from its dryness, called Sych-noul, but it now lost the name, for a spring of uncommon size burst out where the head rested; the moss on its sides diffused a fra.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »